While one restless night’s sleep is unlikely to cause health problems in the long term, consecutive nights of poor sleep can do more harm than many people realise.
And if this is you you’re not alone, with a health survey by the Australian Sleep Health Foundation finding that 33 to 45 per cent of adults sleep either poorly or not long enough most nights.
Here, FEMAIL looks at the impact this sleeplessness has on the body and some simple tips for improving your slumber and overall health moving forward.
While one restless night’s sleep is unlikely to cause health problems in the long term, consecutive nights of poor sleep can do more harm than many people realise
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, nutritionist and holistic expert Lee Holmes said a lack of sleep can wreak havoc on the gut.
‘Scientists are now uncovering the strong relationship between our gut microbiome and sleep,’ the Supercharged Food founder said.
‘When our circadian rhythms are disrupted, the bacteria of our gut can be negatively affected. The line of connection between the gut and the brain, known as the “gut brain axis” becomes compromised, a little bit like when you play broken telephone.’
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, nutritionist and holistic expert Lee Holmes (pictured) said a lack of sleep can wreak havoc on the gut
According to Lee, having an unhealthy balance of gut micro flora can also ‘increase our pain perception, making us experience worse pain for longer periods of time’.
‘Therefore, getting enough sleep can minimise the experience of pain through better communication between the gut and brain, promoting a sounder sleep,’ she said.
‘Sleep is also vital to our health and daily functioning. Just like our cars need time to stop, rest and refuel, our cells and gut need the same. Sleep is the time for us to rest, restore energy and repair our cells.
‘Research shows that the gut is extremely impacted by sleep, ranging from the shifting of our circadian rhythms through our sleeping patterns, to altering the body’s sleep-wake cycle and even regulating the hormones that control sleep and wakefulness.’
How much sleep should you have at night?
Primary school children – need about nine to 10 hours. Studies show that increasing your child’s sleep by as little as half an hour can dramatically improve school performance.
Teenagers – need about nine to 10 hours too. Teenagers have an increased sleep requirement at the time when social engagements and peer pressure cause a reduction in sleep time. Lifestyle factors such as early school start times deprive them of the required sleep-in. There is evidence that around the time of becoming a teenager, there is a shift in the sleep-wake cycle to being sleepy later in the evening with a preference for waking later.
Adults – need about eight hours, depending on individual factors. We tend to need less sleep as we age, but be guided by your own state of alertness – if you feel tired during the day, aim to get more sleep.
Source: Better Health
According to Lee, having an unhealthy balance of gut micro flora can also ‘increase our pain perception, making us experience worse pain for longer periods of time’
The hormones and neurotransmitters that are vital in regulating sleep are also controlled by the gut.
‘Our intestines produce and release serotonin and dopamine which affect our mood and our sleeping patterns. As night-time approaches, our serotonin levels increase and send signals to the brain to rev up our melatonin, the hormone that stimulates sleepiness and controls sleep,’ Lee said.
‘Not getting enough sleep can even cause food cravings. After some sleep deprivation, the brain is more likely to seek out “rewards” in the form of chips, pizza, chocolate and you know the rest.
‘When sleep-deprived, the lower part of our brain increases its function and the upper part of our brain function decreases, leading us to crave junk foods and skip the kale, quinoa salad.’
A sleepy fatigued person is accident prone, judgement impaired and more likely to make mistakes and bad decisions
In addition to the above, according to Better Health those who get insufficient sleep, inadequate quality of sleep or disruptions to the sleep-wake cycle suffer all kinds of issues the next day.
‘A sleepy fatigued person is accident prone, judgement impaired and more likely to make mistakes and bad decisions,’ they explained.
‘Staying awake for 24 hours leads to a reduced hand-to-eye coordination that is similar to having a blood alcohol content of 0.1. This is why sleep deprivation contributes to road accidents and work injuries.’
Even just losing two hours of the recommended eight hours of sleep can lead to poor judgement, reduced decision-making skills, loss of motivation and micro sleeps.
For those who don’t believe they have a chronic issue, clinical nutritionist Jessica Sepel (pictured) has offered some simple tips to sleep better and heal your body
What NOT to do if you want better sleep
* Drink alcohol before bed. This is particularly important if you’re waking up in the middle of the night – that’s your liver shouting at you.
* Drink caffeine after midday.
* Sip on green tea after midday. A lot of people are sensitive to its caffeine content and don’t know it.
* Eat refined sugar – it spikes your blood sugars, which can disrupt sleep.
It is crucial to seek help for sleep issues as far more serious issues can occur down the track.
These include issues like diabetes as according to Snore Australia, ‘sleep deprivation affects the body’s ability to burn glucose’.
‘Sleep deprivation also disrupts hormones in the body which control appetite. Middle-aged people who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to be obese,’ they continued.
Other side effects include reduced immunity and increased susceptibility to illness.
Sleep deprivation can also lead to swollen and red eyes, sagging skin, faster ageing skin, a paler complexion, puffy eyes and decreased skin elasticity.
Sleep deprivation can also lead to swollen and red eyes, sagging skin, faster ageing skin, a paler complexion, puffy eyes and decreased skin elasticity
For those who don’t believe they have a chronic issue, clinical nutritionist Jessica Sepel has offered some simple tips to sleep better and heal your body.
‘In the morning, the focus is on kick-starting your day with breakfast, exercise and maybe a coffee. At night, you need to relax and unwind your busy mind, signalling to the mind and body that it’s almost time for bed,’ Jessica advised.
‘To do that, set up a nighttime routine full of deliciously sleep-provoking rituals.’
These rituals should include things like turning off the computer, playing relaxing music with 60-80 BPM, putting legs up against the wall and stopping eating after dinner.
When it comes to getting back to sleep after waking up, Jessica warns against watching the clock or desperately trying to fall back asleep
She also suggested avoiding coffee, trying yoga, considering supplements like zinc and adrenal tonic and eating protein at night.
When it comes to getting back to sleep after waking up, Jessica warns against watching the clock or desperately trying to fall back asleep.
‘Put your legs up against the wall for 10 minutes while breathing deeply, go into a forward fold and write down any thoughts in that notepad by your bed,’ she said.